The History Museum of Hood River County remains closed as the county examines a preliminary audit report on the museum’s finances and how they may have been mishandled.
County Administrator Dave Meriwether reported last week that The History Museum was closed Aug. 9 after the county learned of “administrative and operational anomalies” with the museum’s accounting practices. The museum is currently in the process of applying for a 501(c)(3) federal nonprofit tax designation, and Meriwether said last week that museum funds may have been moved too soon from one account to another “in anticipation of that (nonprofit) formation, which is not yet in place or recognized by the IRS.”
Tigard accounting firm Pauly Rogers and Co arrived at the museum Aug. 15 to examine the museum books. Meriwether said the locks were changed on the museum doors to prevent any museum personnel, board members, or volunteers from gaining access to the building while the audit was being conducted.
“We just didn’t know how many keys were out there,” he explained.
Auditors with Pauly Rogers recently finished their investigation, but the museum doors still remain locked as the county reviews the preliminary report. At Monday night’s meeting of the Hood River County Board of Commissioners, museum board member Mary Ellen Barilotti, who was speaking on her own behalf, not the museum’s, was irked by the closure.
“We’re sort of upset that it had to close,” she said to the commissioners. “We don’t understand the reason why it had to close and considerable problems have arisen as a result of closing the building, not to mention Cemetery Tales. People are calling, there’s no one answering the phones, there’s nothing going on.”
Barilotti also noted that the issues at the museum that were reported “didn’t warrant the closure of the museum.”
The museum is operated by volunteers and board members and is staffed by one county employee, Connie Nice, as museum coordinator. When asked Tuesday morning whether Nice was still being paid while the museum was closed, Meriwether said he didn’t “want to comment on personnel matters.”
As for when the museum might open, Meriwether didn’t give a definite date.
“We hope to have the final (audit) report by the end of the month,” he said. “We hope to have the museum open before then, but I can’t say that for sure.”